UPDATE: Influential science fiction and fantasy author Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Twilight Zone) died yesterday from natural causes at his home, surrounded by friends and family. He was 87. “For having such a fantastic imagination, he passed very peacefully,” son Richard Matheson Jr. told Deadline. “He was not only a monumental talent, he was also every bit a father, friend, and husband.” Friend and fellow author Harlan Ellison wrote today, “I am downsmashed.”
The celebrated writer began his 6-decade-plus career in 1950 with the story “Born Of Man And Woman,” published in The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction. Matheson’s best-known and oft-adapted works ranged from short stories like “Button, Button” (which Richard Kelly adapted into The Box) to novels including I Am Legend (adapted four times into features The Last Man On Earth, The Omega Man, I Am Omega and I Am Legend). Matheson wrote more than a dozen episodes of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone — including “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet,” starring William Shatner, which was remade as a segment of 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie — and penned the evil Kirk “Enemy Within” episode of Star Trek.
Over the decades Hollywood turned frequently to his writing for its twisty but humanist genre storytelling. Films adapted from his works include The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971), Somewhere in Time (1980), the Will Smith-starrer I Am Legend (2007), and Real Steel (2011). During his career Matheson earned a Writers Guild Association nomination for 1985’s Amazing Stories and won the Hugo Award, The Edgar Allen Poe Award, the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Horror Writers Association, and a Lifetime Achievement award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.
Earlier this year Matheson signed on to adapt his own The Incredible Shrinking Man for MGM with Richard Jr. The pair completed a draft prior to Matheson’s passing. A musical adaptation of Matheson’s Christopher Reeve-Jane Seymour romance Somewhere In Time opened last month in Portland, OR with an eye toward an eventual Broadway run.